Interview and story by Don Wilcock
“It took me 63 years to find my voice, quote, unquote, with regard to myself, not within a band,” says Bill Payne, the founding keyboardist of Little Feat, the enduring American band with a 40-plus year legacy. They performed at The Egg in early January, but on Tuesday (June 18), Payne returns as a solo act to WAMC-FM’s The Linda in Albany.
“I didn’t do any solo shows until a year ago,” he says. At that time he had Dennis McNally open for him. McNally was the long-time historian and publicist for the Grateful Dead who wrote the definitive biography of the band, “Long Strange Trip.”
There has been a long, psychic connection between the two bands that suddenly became more tangible last year when the Dead’s lyricist Robert Hunter began a songwriting collaborating with Payne.
When I interviewed Payne in December to advance Little Feat’s show at The Egg date I wrote, “Never as popular as the Dead, Little Feat is adored by critics and die-hard fans alike, and like the Dead, they retain their distinctive sound despite the comings and goings of various personnel. Payne and Hunter’s title track to Rooster Rag [Little Feat's latest album] sounds like a logical extension of Payne’s ’70s anthem “Oh Atlanta,” and the band’s high energy eclecticism remains a West Coast answer to New Orleans gumbo.” At that time, Payne had written 13 songs with Hunter.
Recently, we reconnected for this interview: